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Young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) meets his older self (Patrick Stewart) in the future in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” Photo by Alan Markfield
Young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) meets his older self (Patrick Stewart) in the future in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” Photo by Alan Markfield
Arts Rancho Santa Fe

Film review: Past and future collide for entertaining time

The time traveling “X-Men: Days of Future Past” unites all the strengths of the series and, in doing so, generates a profound, entertaining epic that elevates our big screen mutants to an even higher place.

“Days of Future Past” follows the X-Men struggling to save their species from extinction at the hands of Sentinels, gigantic robots programmed to eliminate them.

In one final desperate act, they send Wolverine’s consciousness into his younger self, where he must convince the Professor X of the past to prevent that dark future from happening.

As the stakes rise for the mutants across the two time periods, the possibility of total annihilation threatens to crush the spirits of everyone involved as they make a last-ditch attempt to set things right.

Bryan Singer, who kicked off the series with “X-Men” and “X2,” returns to the director’s chair with more confidence than ever before.

He understands these characters from the inside out and knows what he needs to do to ground this fantastical universe in reality, which enables the audience to see and feel the depth of their favorite mutants. In other words, he is in his element.

The film juxtaposes an ominous, desolate future with a turbulent 1970s era, introducing a new set of challenges for the X-Men in what is their toughest battle by far. In addition to the top-notch production design, the logic behind time travel survives the frequent display of mutant abilities intact.

All those interactions and inter-cuts between the past and the future maintain their structural integrity as every scene unfolds and affects the outcome.

A major benefit of this consistency is the flow of continuous emotion, creating dynamic character relationships across time and space.

It was definitely interesting to see how the chemistry between Professor X and Magneto in both timelines played out.

And I was also impressed with the way the film burdened Wolverine with a different kind of responsibility, not to mention imbued Mystique with a vengeful drive that propels the film forward.

Singer combines the original “X-Men” trilogy veterans with “First Class” alumni, and the end result transcends all expectations.

Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, as the older Professor X and Magneto, respectively, bring their “A game” to the grave nature of their species’ destruction; same goes for Halle Berry, who portrays the weather-controlling Storm, along with Shawn Ashmore as Iceman, Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, and Daniel Cudmore as Colossus.

Hugh Jackman serves as the glue that binds both the past and the future, and his performance as the gruff Wolverine radiates a cohesion of sorts that works in the film’s favor.

James McAvoy perfectly exudes the young Professor X’s broken spirit in a time when he is needed most, and Michael Fassbender continues to impress with his ambitious interpretation of Magneto’s younger self.

Jennifer Lawrence proves to be a colorful scene stealer given the evolution her Mystique undergoes.

Finally, Nicholas Hoult succeeds in expressing the inner turmoil of the blue-furred Beast.

Joining these familiar faces is the excellent Peter Dinklage, who instills a logical sensibility in the film’s main antagonist, Bolivar Trask, whose Sentinels are designed to exterminate mutants; you understand him despite his opposing views.

You cannot have X-Men without an intense atmosphere punctuated by sensational action, which, I am happy to report, is superb in terms of both visuals and execution here.

Mystique wins first prize for dominating the hand-to-hand combat category due to her shape-shifting prowess.

But my favorite scene would have to be the Pentagon sequence, where the distinctive Quicksilver (Evan Peters) demonstrates his supersonic speed capabilities.

I enjoyed many other examples, however; the climactic ‘70s battle on the White House Lawn being one of them, as well as the skirmishes in the future, where the audience is introduced to mutant newcomers Bishop (Omar Sy), Blink (Fan Bingbing), Sunspot (Adan Canto), and Warpath (Booboo Stewart), all of whom get to exhibit their superpowers against the Sentinels.

My highest recommendation of the 2014 summer movie season goes to “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

This is THE movie to see in theaters right now, and with this noteworthy accomplishment, the “X-Men” series as a whole faces a  bright future.

MPAA rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence, some suggestive material, nudity and language.

Run time: 2 hours and 11 minutes

Playing: In general release